MIAMI -- The roof is, indeed, collapsing on the Orioles.
On a night when a top portion of their dugout ended up on the steps, the Orioles took another spill, wasting a tie-breaking homer by Cal Ripken and losing to the Florida Marlins, 7-6, at Pro Player Stadium, to complete an interleague sweep and extend their losing streak to five games.
Gary Sheffield homered off Shawn Boskie, the fourth reliever in an increasingly hurting Orioles bullpen, with one out in the ninth. The ball carried over the wall in left field, taking with it a little more air out of the team with the best record in the majors.
After Armando Benitez appeared to strain his back as he finished the eighth inning, joining Alan Mills (groin) and Arthur Rhodes (side) on the bench, Boskie came in to begin the ninth. He retired Edgar Renteria on a grounder to second. He got ahead of Sheffield, 1-2, before being handed his second defeat in the series.
The loss was the seventh in nine games for the Orioles (85-51), who were in search of some momentum to take into tonight's opener of a long-awaited series in the Bronx. Only by the generosity of the Yankees, who completed a three-game swoon in Philadelphia, did they retain their 6 1/2 -game lead in the AL East.
They appeared to receive just the jolt they needed from Ripken, who hit a three-run homer to left in the fifth inning for a 6-3 lead.
The good feelings were fleeting. Recalled reliever Brian Williams, called upon in the sixth to protect a 6-3 lead, promptly gave up three runs as the Marlins batted around. Two were delivered by pesky second baseman Craig Counsell, a midseason pickup from the Colorado Rockies who tripled into the right-field corner to score pinch runner Cliff Floyd and Moises Alou. Pinch hitter Jim Eisenreich grounded a single through a drawn-up infield, tying the game at 6.
With bases loaded and two outs, Williams threw three straight balls to Bobby Bonilla. The former Oriole took a strike, then flew to deep center to end the inning and Williams' night.
Left-hander Jesse Orosco came in to pitch the seventh, as manager Davey Johnson again had to dig deep into his troubled bullpen.
Where have we seen this before?
Here's something the Orioles don't often see: Left-hander Rick Krivda, who will open the four-game series in New York tonight, getting in some extra running before the bottom of the third inning by hustling out of the dugout as the left end of the roof caved in. Anyone believe in bad omens?
Ripken's blow looked as though it would break the spell and make a winner of Scott Kamieniecki, who scuffled all night but left after five innings with the lead.
Kamieniecki gave up eight hits and three runs before being replaced by Williams, making his first appearance with the Orioles since June 11 at Boston.
Florida pushed across a run in the fourth to wipe out a 3-2 deficit. Given new life, Marlins starter Al Leiter fell into immediate trouble, allowing singles to Aaron Ledesma and Geronimo Berroa to open the fifth. Rafael Palmeiro struck out, and Leiter fell behind 2-0 before serving up Ripken's 16th home run.
As if rejuvenated by the sudden turn of events, Kamieniecki retired the Marlins in order in the fifth and maintained his streak of not having lost since July 25 in Minnesota.
The original plan was for the Orioles to come into Florida on a roll, but losing two of three to Kansas City and the New York Mets changed that idea. Then came the suggestion that they could get healthy against the Marlins, who won their sixth in a row to close within 2 1/2 games of Atlanta, the NL East leader, for the first time since June 25..
In need of a stopper, the Orioles turned to Kamieniecki, who was making his first career start against the Marlins. The introduction wasn't polite.
First-inning singles by Devon White, Sheffield, Bonilla and Darren Daulton staked the Marlins to a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out on a walk to Ripken and singles by B. J. Surhoff and Lenny Webster. Mike Bordick, once so deep in a slump you could see only the top of his head, collected his sixth hit of the series, bouncing a single up the middle that tied the game at 2.
Hammonds moved the Orioles in front with two outs, singling under the glove of second baseman Counsell. But in the finest tradition of this series, an Oriole was thrown out on the basepaths. This time, Bordick was cut down at third by Sheffield.
Kamieniecki couldn't hold the lead. Charles Johnson and Counsell singled to lead off the fourth, but the rally seemed to die when Leiter bunted into a double play that started with Ripken fielding the ball and throwing to Bordick covering third. Instead, the Marlins pulled even when White lined a single to left.
Leiter got into some trouble in the third inning, walking Hammonds with two outs and allowing a single to Ledesma. In need of the kind of clutch hit that eluded them so many times in Tuesday's 3-2, 10-inning loss, the Orioles again came up empty, with Berroa grounding sharply to Bonilla at third.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site: Yankee Stadium, New York
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rick Krivda (2-0, 7.77) vs. Yankees' David Wells (14-8, 4.21)
Pub Date: 9/04/97